While the Phillies have been looking for answers as they've struggled through the first five weeks of the season, Cole Hamels has been one of their most consistent pieces as they look to climb out of the cellar in the NL East.
Hamels was stellar on the mound in his return from a five-game suspension, extending his winning streak to five games with seven innings of one-run ball Sunday to help Philadelphia beat another last place team, the San Diego Padres, 3-2.
The Phillies have now won six straight games in which Hamels has started.
"It's nice to get some runs. Obviously when you get runs you can win," said Hamels. "I know if I just go out there and I battle and try to pitch deep into the ball game and we put up some runs, then I can get wins. If we're able to score early then I just have to work off that. There's been a few times where we scored late. I think it's helpful just being able to go out there and know that your team is going to come through at the end."
Hamels (5-1) was suspended by major league baseball after the Phillies left-hander intentionally threw a pitch that hit Washington rookie Bryce Harper a week ago.
The San Diego native battled a little bit early. He allowed five hits while striking out five and threw 108 pitches.
The Padres' lone run against Hamels came in the third. Chris Denorfia hit a one-out double and Yonder Alonso walked. With Jesus Guzman batting, both runners caught Hamels unaware and pulled off a double steal. Guzman's slow grounder to third plated Denorfia to make it 2-1. Hamels then got Nick Hundley to ground out to short.
"He pitched well. He's having a fine year, no doubt," Padres manager Bud Black said of Hamels. "Early in the game his change wasn't quite where he wanted it, but from the fourth on he had it working."
San Diego threatened in the eighth but managed to score only one run. Jose Contreras relieved Hamels and struck out Alonso but gave up a double to Guzman, who then stole third. Contreras got Hundley to ground out to short but quickly gave up a run-scoring single to James Darnell that pulled the Padres to 3-2.
Antonio Bastardo replaced Contreras and got Andy Parrino to hit a soft blooper behind the mound that shortstop Jimmy Rollins caught just off the ground.
Jonathan Papelbon worked a perfect ninth — striking out two of the three batters he faced — for his 10th save.
It took Rollins 135 at-bats but he finally blasted one out, opening the game with his first homer this season off Padres starter Jeff Suppan (2-1), who gave up three runs — two earned — on six hits over six innings.
Rollins wasn't in the mood to go into any details regarding his first home run of the season and 38th leadoff shot of his career — a team record.
"It was nice to hit a line drive," said Rollins.
The Phillies won the season series with the Padres 4-3 after splitting a four-game set back in April at San Diego. It was just the fifth series win of the year for Philadelphia, which has won four of its last 10 games.
"Every time you win a series you've done your job. Definitely you'd like to bring some sweeps in and get on a roll where you win five or six in a row before you lose a game but we haven't done that yet."
The Phillies were able to get some hits with runners in scoring position after going 1 for 10 in Friday night's 2-1 loss.
Ty Wigginton hit a hard grounder to third but Darnell's throw sailed over the head of Alonso at first, allowing Wigginton to take second. With two outs, Brian Schneider, who came in 9 for 18 lifetime against Suppan, singled to center to drive in Wigginton and make it 2-0.
Juan Pierre's two-out double in the bottom of the fifth scored Schneider for a 3-1 lead.
"Just trying to scrape out some victories. Today we got the big hits when we need them and our pitching staff did their normal thing," Pierre said.
With the bases loaded in the eighth, the Phillies had the chance to blow the game open but pinch-hitter Carlos Ruiz grounded out to first with two outs to end the threat. It's been one of the reasons why the Phillies haven't had a solid winning streak all season.
"I think we've got to add on when we score runs and we got to put some teams away especially when we got guys on base, especially in scoring position, we got to knock them in. We're having a lot of trouble doing that right now," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
Suppan was making just his third start of the season after being recalled from Triple-A Tuscon on May 2. The 37-year-old was signed to a minor league deal during the offseason and spent last year with Kansas City's Triple-A affiliate in Omaha.
"Rollins hit a home run to start the game and then they had some good situational hitting. I tried to keep the ball down, changed speeds and keep it close," Suppan said.
Suppan has lost each of his last seven decisions against the Phillies dating to April 9, 2005. He is 0-7 in his last nine starts with his teams losing all nine. The last time he beat the Phillies was May 6, 2004 while he was with St. Louis.
Notes: Suppan made his 415th career start and ranks fourth among active pitchers. Jamie Moyer leads with 635. Livan Hernandez (474) and former Phillies pitcher Kevin Millwood (421) follow. ... Rollins came in just 9 for 27 with two home runs in his career against Suppan. ... Announced attendance was 45,442 for the Phillies' 220th consecutive regular season sellout. ... Hunter Pence went 0 for 4 and is now mire in a 2-for-23 slump. ... Pierre went 2 for 4 and has seven hits in his last 16 at-bats.